In early 2005, singer Andrew McMahon was living out his rock star dreams.

McMahon and his band, Something Corporate, had already released three full-length studio records, two live DVDs, and a live album. Songs like "If You C Jordan" and "Punk Rock Princess" became staples of the early 2000s emo-pop-punk scene. You might say he was doing pretty well for a 22-year-old.


Here's McMahon (center) and the rest of Something Corporate. Photo from Andrew McMahon.

On June 1 of that year, McMahon's life took a very unexpected detour when he was diagnosed with leukemia.

On the same day he finished recording his debut solo album under the name Jack's Mannequin, he was diagnosed acute lymphocytic leukemia. Luckily, the cancer was in its early stages, and with a stem-cell transplant courtesy of his sister Katie, McMahon went on to make a full recovery.

Photo from Andrew McMahon.

The following year, McMahon founded the Dear Jack Foundation to fight cancer in adolescents and young adults.

In addition to releasing some great music with Jack's Mannequin (and later under his own name), McMahon wanted to use his platform to help others like him diagnosed with cancer.

"When I first heard the words, 'You have cancer,' I never could have imagined what was to follow. ... I survived to tell my story and use this new life to advocate for those who are hearing those difficult words for the first time."

When it comes to cancer, young adults and adolescents are massively underserved.

There's never a "good time" for a scary diagnosis, but nothing prepares you for finding out you have cancer just as you're starting your adult life.

Articles on the Internet containing tips for setting yourself up for financial stability in your 20s are everywhere.

How to start saving for retirement, establishing a budget, and putting aside money for a rainy day are just a few of the suggestions laid out in these articles. There's one item you won't find on any of these how-to-adult advice lists: how to manage life when you get diagnosed with cancer.

So what do you do if you're in that tenuous place between childhood and stability and find out you have cancer? While there's a lot of focus on cancer as it affects children and seniors, you don't hear all that much about how it hits adolescents and young adults just as they're trying to establish their own independence and set out on their own.

Photo from Andrew McMahon.

Cancer survivors face major challenges that last long after the cancer has gone into remission.

One survey of these cancer survivors found that in the years immediately following diagnosis, accessing treatment and insurance were obstacles to getting on with their lives. Additionally, many faced major financial concerns.

On average, survivors of adolescent and young adult cancer spent around $3,000 more annually on medical care than adults who hadn't had cancer. Couple that with annual income that falls about $2,250 lower than the cancer-free population, and it makes for a really rough start to adulthood.

That's what McMahon and the Dear Jack Foundation wanted to take on — outreach to the 70,000 people ages 15 to 39 who will be diagnosed just this year.


Since its founding, the Dear Jack Foundation has helped fund scholarships for young survivors, added more than 1,000 names to the bone marrow registry, and drawn attention to this sometimes forgotten demographic.

And now, to celebrate 10 years of being cancer-free, the Dear Jack Foundation is launching a social fundraising challenge.

They're calling it the 72k Challenge, and the goal is simple: raise one dollar for the estimated 72,000 adolescents and young adults who will be diagnosed with cancer this year.

While McMahon and his fans have used Aug. 23 (the date he received the life-saving stem cell transplant) as an occasion to celebrate and bring awareness to cancer patients, in 2015, they're raising the bar.

McMahon performs in the audience during the 2015 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

“Ten years ago this August, I was transplanted with life-saving stem cells. When I first heard the words, 'You have cancer,' I never could have imagined what was to follow," said McMahon in a press release (emphasis added). “The trajectory of a life is forever altered by those three loaded words. Unlike many friends I've met along the way, I survived to tell my story and use this new life to advocate for those who are hearing those difficult words for the first time."

Additionally, along certain stops on McMahon's fall tour, attendees can get swabbed for the bone marrow registry.

The Dear Jack Foundation's 72k Challenge runs until Dec. 31, 2015.

Learn more here:

Devon Pasternak/YouTube

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